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Which Audio Visual Control System is for You?

With the increase in demand for simplified control of consumer electronics in Residential, Commercial & Marine environments there has been a plethora of control systems enter the market. Never before has the consumer had so much choice, but which is the right solution for you?

Firstly let us have a look at the history of control systems in the Audio Visual industry.

There are two prominent control solutions that have been around since the 1980’s. With more than 20 years of experience as well as continual Research and Development, these companies lead the industry and are the only true consideration in commercial & high-end environments due to the flexibility & reliability they offer. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses as well as the organisation who delivers your solution so picking the right product as well as the organisation to implement it will ultimately provide you with a solution you are extremely happy with or a poor outcome that leaves you somewhat disappointed.

AMX & Crestron lead this marketplace. One of the downfalls using either of these products is the significant expense you will go to but ultimately you will not achieve the flexibility or intelligence achieved with these platforms. If you are not technically minded than comprehending this can be difficult but the best way to explain it is this:

Imagine you were purchasing a painting to hang in your new home and you were talking to an art gallery as well as the artist. You are not purchasing an existing painting because none of them will match with your new decor so you are looking to engage the artist to paint something that will be suited to you.

An important thing to remember is that every automation system in some shape or form is a custom solution and is not something you pull out of the box and turn on.

Now the artist is telling you that you can only have three colours and on a canvas that is one of three sizes and paints are water based only. Plus he can only offer you a few designs to choose from.

Not very flexible is it…

Both AMX and Crestron offer a blank canvas of a size you choose. The problem is that the artist needs to be good to deliver a great result. If the artist is not so good he might use a stencil designed by someone else but the problem is that he can’t change the stencil and can only use the colours provided with it. Sort of like a colouring-in book….

Take into consideration that the Gallery is the company you look to purchase the solution from and the artist is the programmer who will provide the user interface and code that is the core of any controlled environment.

If you can grasp this concept, now you know the difference between a control solution provided on AMX or Crestron verses the large number of control systems that have entered the market in the past 5 years due to demand. The majority of new control systems that have entered the market such as RTI, Control 4 & Philips Pronto provide limited flexibility either due to the hardware design or the proprietary software that is used to program them. Apart from the significant cost difference that these systems do provide customers there is one major benefit for the programmer not requiring anywhere near the skill and experience of a certified and experienced coder.

AMX provides the greatest flexibility when it comes to language based programming and although some people will have you believe that it takes much longer to program an AMX system over its competitors; that is only because of the poor programming methods used.

Our organisation has been providing solutions on the AMX platform for the past decade and our approach has allowed us to achieve deployment for residential projects within a third of the time of our competitors as well as delivering the solution remotely and giving the client a far more feature rich environment that is thoroughly bug tested and reliable.

More often than not, when it comes to people and organisations selecting a suitable integrator, price is a major consideration, but when you consider that each integrator is unique, it no longer becomes apples for apples.  Here are a couple of tips:

If a colouring in book is all you need and can afford, by all means go with it but take into consideration your requirements now and in the future because picking the wrong solution can be more expensive further down the track.

Be careful selecting the artist (programmer). Too many people assume that a programmer is just a programmer and that statement couldn’t be further from the truth. No artist is the same and all have their unique talents. Their background, training and experience are all very important.

Avoid organisations utilising contract programmers. The programming of a system is a core component of a solution and there for should be key personnel for the organisation delivering the solution. Organisations using contract programmers are doing so for a few reasons; to reduce or minimise costs, to cope with too much workload and a lack of expertise within the organisation. All of these reasons are not in favour of you as the customer. If you are making a significant investment with an organisation to deliver a control solution then why shouldn’t they be doing the same?

Make sure that the organisation providing the solution is a certified agent of the control product. Manufacturers want to insure that their products are installed correctly by trained people. They are also out to grow their market share so if an organisation is not a certified agent for the product, it is most likely with good reason!

A fundamental thing to consider is the system design. A control solution is only as good as the weakest link in the chain. This can be the products used or it can be how they are interconnected. It is not uncommon to find a control solution delivered with a poor system design that ultimately limits the functionality and flexibility. The system design should try to achieve ultimate flexibility on a hardware level and leave only programming changes to achieve the desired result.

Redundancy and resource sharing is paramount if you want to get the most out of your investment. When you are going to the expense of such a system, it should not be functioning as a glorified universal remote which unfortunately we see far too often…

As you can see there is a great deal to think about and you need to answer many questions when considering an integrator. You are placing a great deal of trust in this organisation to deliver on the promises made and your expectations.